The relationship between the media and general society seems to be one of mutual destruction: you can be assured of that when everyone’s motto is ‘give the people what they want’. But it should be obvious that what we want is not always what’s best for us.

But I digress. An example of societal symbiotic stupidity is revealed in advertisements, such as these two:

Bad ad the first.
In this ad for a particular brand of medication for temporary relief of pain, an attractive post-natal women, ostensibly a doctor, tells her audience: ‘mothers’ group taught me things only a mother could know.’ Er – if only a mother can know these things, why does one have to join a group to learn it?

It isn’t like a permissive knowledge like ‘secret women’s business’: among indigenous tribes, there are rites and myths that only women are permitted to know. The statement ‘things only a mother could know’ implies that this knowledge is inherent in and limited to females who have actualised their viviparous potential (i.e. mothers).

Perhaps this knowledge was developed by a kind of Lamarckian evolution or is shared, Jungian-like, among the group subconsciousness of mothers. However it may be, fathers don’t have this knowledge and are unable to acquire it; even by going to a mothers’ group.

Nor is it an action or ability, like that of the female Gelflings in The Dark Crystal: only female Gelflings can fly. They might have had to learn how to fly, like cats teach their young how to successfully hunt; but the ability was there already.

Certainly a mother has an esoteric relationship with her children that a father doesn’t: after carrying a child in the womb for nine months, there should be some connection between the two people. But it’s a long stretch to say that this relationship grants the mother a knowledge about her baby’s crying or behaviour that only she could know. A baby’s pre-crying gurgles can be understood by men and women, including those who haven’t had children.

So we return to the original logical problem: if only a mother can know something, why does she have to go a mothers’ group to learn it?

Bad ad the second.
One ad from a fast food burger chain shows how Australia has been influenced by the USA. The particular product advertised is a conglomeration of comestibles called an ‘Aussie Burger’. The ad lists the ingredients: meat, lettuce, beetroot (‘wouldn’t be Aussie without beetroot!’) and … wait for it … ‘ketchup’.

Yes; ketchup. The US name for the product that Australians know as ‘tomato sauce’. Taste the irony. Yeah mate, gimme an Aussie burger an’ go heavy on the ketchup. Still, the burger is easier to swallow than the ad: tomato sauce by any name disguises the taste of bad cooking.

Perhaps the advertising bods thought that emphasising the ineffable ockerness of beetroot would result in their linguistic sycophancy going unnoticed. I hope that’s the explanation: the other horrid possibility is that they have become so insensitive to international English that they didn’t notice that anything was amiss.

But surely some Jack or Jill Average in the focus groups or screening tests would have noticed? But then, the information superhighway has given us access to so much knowledge that perhaps we no longer take the time to think and critique what we learn. We’ve acquired the attention span of a goldfish on amphetamines.